At the FiddleHed monthly Office Hours, FiddleHed Sue says: I have joined a new jam group recently and they play really fast. They encourage me to join in but I really don’t keep up with them well. How can I keep up?
Six Things To Help You Keep Up In A Jam Group
- Just listen
- Record the session
- Learn to play chord backup
- Play the anchor points
- Find other “slow players”
Practice tunes that you know will be played.
Practice ear-training with call-and-response exercises.
Call-and-response: G0, G1, G2, G3, D0
Here’s a library of call-and-response exercises.
Warm up before going to the session.
Try to find out the set list before a jam if possible. Then listen to the songs on a daily basis.
If you’re in a session and don’t know a tune, start by just listening to it. Can you pick out any repeating parts? Can you hear the form of the tune (AABB, AABA, etc.).
Record the Session
Record each tune during a session. Ask for the title and scale of each tune. Label your recordings.
Then listen daily. Pick one tune to learn. Use Amazing Slowdowner (or similar app) to learn and practice it from your recording. Try to sing or hum the tune. This helps you learn the tune on your instrument.
Next time you’re at the session, ask to play the tunes you practiced.
Learn to play chord backup
Practice chords and chord progressions. If you don’t know the melody, you can contribute by playing chords. Knowing a handful of simple chords will help you to play thousands of tunes: G, D, A, C, F Major; A, D, E Minor. That may seem like more than a handful, but a lot of chord “shapes” can be major or minor.
Go to Chord Backup Central for a series of lessons on this.
The easiest form of backup is to simply play root notes. Wagon Wheel Duet
FiddleHed Leanna says: I just play chords or single notes in the background when playing at a jam. You don’t have to play as fast and you can add some color to every tune.
Play the anchor points
If you don’t know a tune at a session, listen and then try to play one little part. If you can pick up one little section of a tune (even just a few notes), then do that. I think of these little bits “Anchors Points.”
Learn to play quietly. That way, you can experiment without throwing others off.
Find other “slow players”
Look around for other people who want to practice slowly. Maybe even another person in the group.
And for any “fast” players reading this, consider consider getting together with a more beginner player to play through tunes. Your own skills will improve through teaching others.
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